Peguy Luyindula is not a striker. Let’s state that from the outset. Whatever youth coach it was who moved Peguy from a midfielder to a striker needs to be retroactively fired. Hell, let’s fire him from whatever job he has now even if it isn’t in football.
Although Peguy scored a lot of goals during his career (including 138 in France across all competitions), the soccer world didn’t get to see the full bloom of his talent until very near the end of his time as a pro player. Long after he spent time wasting away unused on benches in France and Spain, he had a mini-career resurgence with the Red Bulls playing as both an 8 and a 10 in the midfield.
He came to Major League Soccer billed as a striker. Unfortunately the goals didn’t immediately follow. Fans grew restless. The coaching staff limited his minutes. It appeared that another highly talented, over-the-hill big name had joined this team and failed to deliver. Departure as soon as the season ended seemed the likely conclusion to the tale of Peguy Luyindula's time at RBNY.
However, a brilliant little thought from former assistant coach Robin Fraser to move Peguy to the midfield turned into a massively successful experiment that reaped historically great dividends. Sometimes Peguy played as an attacking midfielder, pushing the tempo and picking out the third or fourth passing option that confused everyone but ended up being the perfect choice. Other times he played as a holding midfielder, busting his ass up and down the field to contribute on both offense and defense, doing the yeoman’s work most players of his pedigree would find to be beneath their abilities. But no matter what he was asked to do after being moved to the midfield, be it the style or the substance, he almost always made an impact.
Three assists in the match against the Chicago Fire to clinch the Supporters’ Shield. A truly spectacular post-season performance during the 2014 MLS Cup Playoffs where he almost single-handedly willed the team past D.C. United. The New York Red Bulls were able to finally put something meaningful in their trophy case and one player who was on his way to being an afterthought and a footnote is a big reason why.
People in France will probably view Peguy Luyindula as a guy who never truly reached his potential - and perhaps that’s a fair assessment. Most of us don’t reach our full potential and are stuck at some mid-point between complete success and total failure due to forces outside our control, whether they be the decisions of others or simply bad luck. They have their opinion on him and we have ours.
How should fans of the New York Red Bulls view Peguy Luyindula? As a club legend, without a moment’s hesitation.
He is the player who showed up when his club needed him most, despite being marginalized due to a coach’s tactical mistake countless years ago and the Red Bulls’ confusing need to push highly paid players onto the field into positions where they didn’t belong to the detriment of their own potential success. When the Red Bulls needed somebody to step up with a clinical finish or a beautiful pass in the final third scything through the defense, or even a bone crushing tackle belying his age, the French trequartista was there to save the day.
Most will credit the team’s first and only silverware to Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill which is a completely fair assessment, but save a little bit of love and credit for Peguy. He didn’t ask for it. He doesn’t want it. He doesn’t need it. But you should give it to him anyway because he deserves it.